Overkill in Bodie

March 29, 2011



With all the interest lately in the Cougar Gold mining proposal in the Bodie Hills, I wanted to mention the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plans to manipulate over 16,000 acres of land over 10 years, including cutting trees, mowing down existing plant communities and prescribed burning. Many of these acres are within three Wilderness Study Areas (WSA) in the Bodie Hills, including the Bodie WSA, location of the most recent gold mining proposal.
In 2007, BLM did several test plots of these “treatments” near my home in Mono City. Afterwards, looking at the piles of mangled trees and “masticated” (chewed up) vegetation, it was hard to accept that this was an “improved regime”.
The basic problem is that , over time, people have greatly changed the Bodie Hills landscape. Mining was done, streams were diverted miles by ditches, grazing animals arrived, 10,000 people went in and out of Bodie, fires were suppressed, and invasive plants introduced, not to mention that major climate change may be coming. Due to all these factors, the forest of pinyon trees is expanding into areas previously in sagebrush. BLM defines this as “departed from their natural range of variability due to a lack of a natural disturbance regime”. It seems there has been plenty of disturbance over the years, and every time a “natural” kind comes along, like a lightning strike fire (which happened last summer), it is immediately jumped on and suppressed, for one reason or another.
It seems a lot of time and money to spend to manipulate such an extensive area for a somewhat questionable result. I am all for enhancing sage grouse habitat, but intensive mowing, cutting and burning seems to be overkill. Perhaps focusing on enhancing habitat around sage grouse lekking (displaying and mating) areas would be more productive, for a fraction of the cost.
Landscapes change over time, even if we would like them to stay the same. Meadows become forests. Lakes dry up and become meadows. Many factors are in play in the Bodie Hills. The original “natural disturbance” regime is long gone. We have a relatively healthy landscape compared to many areas of the western US, where huge swaths of trees are dying. It just doesn’t make sense to me to cut down healthy trees when so many places are losing their forests (take a look on the north facing slopes around June Mountain). In the big picture, trees are also removing carbon dioxide from the air and holding it within. When cut and burned, all the carbon goes into the atmosphere, without even the benefit of heating homes (trees cut in a WSA can’t be used for firewood, but can be cut down and burned in piles by BLM).
BLM needs to hear from all of us on this project. Please request that an Environmental Impact Report be done, because of the size, scope and impact of this project on the Bodie Hills. Send comments to Bernadette Lovato, Field Manager, 351 Pacu Lane, Suite 100, Bishop, 93514 or email to [email protected]. If you have questions, or would like to request a “Notice of Proposed Action” packet, call or email Heather Swartz, Project Leader, at 760-873-2561 or [email protected].
Comments most useful if received by APRIL 4, Monday.

Janet Carle, Mono City

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